Integrated Listening (iLs)
Porter Academy offers Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) as a supplemental after school program. The cost is $500 per year, during which students will complete one to one and a half music protocols, depending on the length of the protocols appropriate for them. Students come Monday through Friday from 7:15-8:00 AM to listen to the modified music while participating in gross motor, fine motor, and visual perceptual activities. We only offer this program to Porter Academy students.
iLs is a leader in the field of listening therapies. This program integrates modified classical music with visual and balance exercises. The multi-sensory training has been shown to lead to significant improvements in vestibular functioning including sensory integration, sensory regulation, balance, eye-hand coordination, temporal-spatial understanding, auditory processing, and ocular motor skills. Secondary effects of these changes include improvements in reading, spelling, math, attention, motor skills, and visual abilities.
Please visit the iLs research page to learn more about the expected outcomes of iLs.
Case studies written about students at Porter Academy
Case Study OneMale, Age: 7 years, 8 months at pre-test; 9 years, 3 months at post-test
Diagnoses: Asperger’s, ADHD, Anxiety
Auditory Processing percentile ranks as measured by the SCAN-3:C
- Auditory Figure Ground (understanding speaker despite background noise): improved from 0.1% to 91% (raw score from 0/40 to 40/40)
- Filtered Words (understanding muffled speech): improved from 5% to 50%
- Competing Words – Directed Ear (dichotic listening, measures cross-hemispheric processing speed): improved from 0.1% to 63%
- Competing Sentences (selectively listening to one ear over the other): improved from 2% to 75%
- Auditory Processing Composite (combination of above scores): improved from 0.1% (“disordered”) to 81% (“normal”)
Motor Skills as measured by the BOT-2 (pre-test January 2010, post-test May 2011); scale score mean=15 with a standard deviation of 5
- Bilateral Coordination: scale score improved from 10-16 (more than 1 standard deviation)
- Balance: scale score improved from 7 to 19 (2 ½ standard deviations)
Case Study Two
Male, Age 9; pre and post tests administered Fall/Spring of the 2012-13 school year
Diagnoses/difficulties: ADHD, Asperger’s; Prior to coming to Porter Academy, he had been asked to leave multiple schools (both public and private) due to behaviors that interfered with the learning and safety of himself and others: climbing under the desk, running from the classroom/lunchroom/school, throwing chairs/desks, hitting, kicking, biting and verbally escalating.
- His mother commented that he “has grown tremendously. He has much greater self-esteem, control and awareness. He has the ability to focus, regroup and reassess in numerous situations more than he ever had before.”
- “He [made] incredible strides in emotional regulation and social skills. [He went] from leaving school for days at his former school to sitting with me for a few minutes while he solved his own problem and talked himself down. His eye contact also is much improved from last September.” – Porter Academy administrator
- “His mood mellowed and his anger lessened significantly during the year.” – Homeroom teacher
- Auditory Processing percentile ranks as measured by the SCAN-3:C
- Auditory Figure Ground: 50% to 91%
- Muffled speech: 0.1% to 84%
- Competing Words – Directed ear: 0.1% to 25%
- Competing Sentences: 25% to 50%
- Overall Auditory Processing Composite: 1% to 73%
Information from the iLs website
Science – How iLs Works
At first glance, it appears as if our ears, our eyes and inner ear (balance) work independently – and that they have their own discreet neurological pathways that co-ordinate, or manage, each individual function.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each of these three systems talks to and receives information from the other two systems at all times. The elaborate communication system between these three major senses must be coordinated smoothly and efficiently for optimal functioning to occur.
Can we change the functionality of the brain?
Yes, the ability of the brain to change is known as neuroplasticity (also called brain plasticity, or brain malleability). It is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. For example, if one hemisphere of the brain is damaged, the intact hemisphere may take over some of its functions. The brain compensates for damage in effect by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. In order to reconnect, the neurons need to be stimulated through activity. The same is true for parts of the brain compensating for injury or disease.
Why combine movement, listening, and visual stimulation?
The 3 systems are vital to our ability to learn, pay attention, process information, and coordinate movement. As these 3 systems are so interrelated, “exercising” them simultaneously is a holistic approach which requires the brain to become better at integrating multi-sensory information. We are essentially re-training the brain to become more efficient and effective, and in the process strengthening neural connections to improve performance.
Why is the repetition of iLs activities important?
As newborns we gradually progressed from involuntary reflexive movements to more voluntary coordinated movements which, as we repeated them, became automatic. Research has shown that the cerebellum part of the brain plays an important role in this “automation” process, and when it is not doing its job well we have difficulty building patterns for further development in learning and coordination.
(The lower back side of the brain, near the brain stem) can be likened to a powerful computer processor, transferring vast amounts of information to the movement, language, reasoning, sensory, and emotion parts of the brain; it’s role is so important that it contains more nerve cells than the rest of the brain combined.
iLs programs stimulate cerebellar activity to strengthen neural connections and, in the process, improve our ability to make skills such as reading, writing, spelling, etc. automatic.
What is the vestibular system and why is it so important?
The vestibule, located in the inner ear, has 3 main functions:
- Balance As the primary organ of equilibrium, it plays a major role in the subjective sensation of motion and spatial orientation
- Posture Vestibular input to areas of the nervous system elicit adjustments of muscle activity and body posture
- Eye Movement Vestibular input to the nervous system helps stabilize the eyes during head movements
Given these 3 functions, one can see how important the vestibular system is to our sense of balance, our posture and muscle development, and the eye tracking ability required for learning.More Specifics on the iLs Method
iLs builds a solid foundation for learning and communicating through repeated, gentle stimulation of the following systems:
Directly connected to the cochlea of the inner ear is the vestibular system (see diagram above). It controls our balance, coordination, muscle tone, rhythm and awareness of our body in space. It plays a key role in organizing motor output and posture. Different types of vestibular stimulation are achieved through movement, balance board activities and the bone conduction system built directly into the ILS headphones. Vestibular and proprioceptive inputs (see below) also have a strong impact on attentional systems and emotional regulation. Once these are functioning well, children are better able to participate in higher brain functions such as reading, writing and functional language.
Enhanced Skills: coordination, balance, focus, self-regulation
Decoding, phonemic awareness, listening in a noisy classroom and speaking clearly require efficient processing and storage of information. iLs processes classical music to emphasize different frequencies per therapeutic objectives. The goal is to train the ear and the brain to analyze and process sound more quickly and accurately. For example, the iLs Reading/Auditory Processing Program focuses on the mid-range frequencies of the English language to train one’s ability to discriminate similar sounding phonemes, to process and differentiate rapid occurring speech sounds, to improve inflection and rhythm in speaking and reading aloud. Further, the iLs Sensory Motor Program for those with autism and/or sensory processing challenges emphasizes a range of low frequencies which influence balance, rhythm, coordination and body awareness (all controlled by the ear). Additionally, the bone conduction delivery in iLs headphones provides a unique stimulation to the vestibular system.
Enhanced Skills: pitch discrimination, auditory processing, reading, mood, concentration and balance
The auditory and vestibular systems that are stimulated by the iLs music, as noted above, have direct neural connections to the Visual Motor system subcortically. Orienting to the source of a sound or one’s name being called out utilizes this relationship between the vestibular, auditory and visual motor systems. In addition, the iLs Playbook activities include visual tracking and visual perception activities in every session. The simultaneous exercising of these skills with vestibular, balance and auditory training benefits reading and motor skills acquisition.
Enhanced Skills: reading, hand/eye coordination, balance, sports
The sense of one’s own body – where it is, how to control it, how to move it – to the point where we don’t need to think about it comes from the receptors in our joints and muscles called proprioception. This is another sensory system too often overlooked as contributing to behavior and learning tasks. When this system in integrated with the other sensory systems the brain is freed up to focus on higher order activities. Children and adults who improve their proprioceptive abilities are able to approach learning and communication tasks in a more relaxed and regulated manner. iLs’ movement program focuses on building proprioceptive abilities with specific exercises in each session.
Enhanced Skills: motor planning, athletics, coordination, awareness of personal space, confidence, regulation
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls many organs and muscles that work in an involuntary, reflexive manner. The ANS is important in 2 situations: emergencies that require us to “fight” or to take “flight” (the sympathetic SNS) and non-emergencies that allow us to “rest and digest” (the parasympathetic PNS). The iLs’ auditory program stimulates the parasympathetic system through the vagus nerve (afferent fibers on the eardrum and in the outer ear canal) which descends from the brain all the way to the intestinal tract. The vagus nerve influences our heart rate, sweating, mouth and throat muscles involved in speech, as well as our bowels and digestion. Many children and adults beginning iLs programs are in a state of hyper-arousal, not far from “fight or flight”. The gentle stimulation of the PNS brings about a balance of the ANS which is reflected by increased calm and self-regulation.
Enhanced Skills: increased sense of calm, longer fuse, happier, improved sleep and digestion
The cerebellum is 10% of the weight of the brain but it has 50% of the brain’s neurons. In computer terms, it’s our processor, receiving input from sensory systems and various parts of the brain, and integrating these inputs to fine tune motor activity. Most neuroscientists agree it is involved in motor functions, cognitive functions such as attention and emotional functions such as regulating fear and pleasure responses. The iLs Playbook’s repetitive activities stimulate cerebellar function. Inputs from the visual, vestibular and auditory systems, session after session, train the cerebellum to become efficient at processing multi-sensory information.
Enhanced Skills: control of motor movement; “automaticity” (motor activities becoming automatic); acquisition of new skills; visual motor control and cognitive skills
The brain defies categorization of function into neatly organized compartments but rather utilizes multiple areas simultaneously for any one function – reading being a good example. Brain areas from front to back and from left to right are simultaneously involved in this activity. This requires precise, rapid and clear communication within and between hemispheres. The strength of the connection between hemispheres is enhanced through the duration of the listening and the repetitive exercises from the iLs Playbook. Enhanced Skills: You name it. Improved hemispheric integration applies to almost everything the brain does.
The following notes explain our music processing techniques, all of which are safe and have been tested over many years of application to both children and adults.
Most of us are not aware of it, but we hear sounds in 2 ways – through air conduction and bone conduction. The odd sensation of hearing our own voice on a recording and not recognizing it is because on the recording we only hear the air conducted sound of our voice. When we speak, we hear our voice through both air and bone conduction (which is why when we go to an audiologist to have our hearing checked, a vibrator is placed on the mastoid bone right behind the ear to test our bone conduction response).
Lower frequencies in particular lend themselves to conduction by bone. These frequencies seem to have a very positive effect on our vestibular function. The process is as natural and safe as listening to a church choir or talented baritone voice, yet yields significant results with iLs protocols.
Based partly on the theory that those who can hear more of the auditory spectrum have an advantage in learning, iLs programs employ gradually increasing filtration levels. By filtering, or letting only certain frequencies through, we are able to selectively train parts of a client’s auditory spectrum, improving learning-related abilities such as pitch discrimination (selectivity), sound decoding, and auditory memory.
The muscles of the inner ear have as one of their functions the job of screening out unwanted sounds. iLs gating separates music into 2 channels, alternating (or “gating”) them, with one channel boosting high frequencies and the other channel boosting low frequencies as the music volume increases and decreases. This causes the muscles in the middle ear to continuously tighten and relax, a process that strengthens them. As the muscles become stronger so does our ability for focused listening and paying attention.
Interactive Language Program
Audio/Vocal training is incorporated into the latter part of iLs programs once the auditory foundation is in place to train our speaking voices. The training involves reading aloud and repeating phrases into a microphone, and then listening to the play-back. This develops the auditory/vocal feedback loop: Is what I am saying matching what I intended to say? Am I speaking clearly? A rich speaking voice has the natural effect of continually energizing and stimulating the brain. The audio/vocal training is also used as a means of helping those who are left-ear dominant strengthen their right ear listening capability.
Please visit the iLs website for more information.